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Doctor's Orders: The Summerslam Series - Shawn Michaels vs. Hulk Hogan - Only Time Ever
By The Doc
Aug 19, 2012 - 10:27:45 AM
QUESTION OF THE DAY (24): Did HBK's overselling make or break his match with Hulk Hogan?
Summerslam 2005 is one of my favorite PPVs of the last decade. I thought it was the last truly well-hyped Summerslam and one of the best examples of how the “Biggest Party of the Summer” can and should be built in a similar fashion to Wrestlemania. Despite numerous PPVs to get through before Summerslam, the WWE started hyping the August event two months in advance, directly, and right after Wrestlemania, indirectly. Seeds were planted for the Legend vs. Icon match between Shawn Michaels and Hulk Hogan after HBK asked the Hulkster to come back for “one more match” to help him fend off that year’s version of the anti-USA Arab-American. In reality, Hogan needed to test out his new hip. Since it worked at Backlash, they had him come back from time-to-time to wrestle on Raw. It was after one such occurrence when HBK clocked Hogan with Sweet Chin Music and began his brilliant, albeit brief, 2005 heel turn.
Off we went toward Summerslam…
Chris Jericho had recently turned heel, as well. After John Cena made his famous 1st pick in the draft appearance, Jericho targeted him and his WWE title just months before his contract ran out and he took his first hiatus from wrestling. Jericho vs. Cena was announced some 7 weeks prior to Summerslam, which I thought was awesome. The sooner a match is announced, in my opinion, the more that we get to discuss and dissect it in preparation for the showdown. They had a really good feud and it was nice to see Jericho back in the spotlight, challenging Cena to step up in the character department in his first consistently live experience on Raw. When combined with the HBK-Hogan hype, which featured numerous classic HBK segments, including the spoof of Larry King’s show where Michaels hilariously impersonated Hogan (“It’ll be the first time, brother; the last time, brother; the only time, brother – OH! OH! My back! Oh, brother! BROTHER! BROTHER!”) and the final Raw before the show emanating from Canada where he really tapped into his 1997 self and channeled some old aggression toward Bret Hart, the Cena vs. Y2J storyline made Summerslam ’05 feel like more than just your every day PPV.
Those turned out to be the two best matches of the show. Jericho had once pegged Cena as a star of the future back in 2002 and did not understand the hate that people threw his way when Cena was coming up through the ranks. I think he reveled in the chance to help Cena progress in his career as “The Champ.” Subsequently, their chemistry was unmistakable and I would imagine that Cena learned a lot from working with Jericho. As a fan of Jericho’s work, it was also nice to see him back in the main-event right before he left. It was a performance from both of them worthy of praise, but it was also historically significant for being the first match that featured the crowd’s dueling chants, half in favor of Cena’s heroic persona and the other against. It added to the match, helping make it an unquestionable Summerslam classic. The same could be said for the Hogan vs. Michaels match. I love that match. HBK bumped around like it was 1992. Because Hogan was so immobile, the match relied on Michaels to do virtually all of the work and he delivered what was one of his most underrated performances. They told a good story, Hogan bled buckets, and Michaels carried the way to a great match. Did HBK oversell? Surely, but it MADE rather than took away from that match.
While it may be the only event in the top 8 Summerslams not to feature a legitimate, consensus MOTY candidate, it did have one of the strongest hyped and performed undercards. JBL vs. Batista for the World title delivered as best it could in a less-than-ten minute No Holds Barred match that was light years ahead of their previous title match a month earlier and Edge vs. Matt Hardy added huge heat to their white hot re-creation of the real life love triangle with Lita (even though I was disappointed, at the time, that it wasn’t given a chance to be an awesome match – imagine this card with their 15-minute street fight from Raw in place of a few backstage segments and the Benoit-Jordan squash). A pair of Wrestlemania rematches in Orton vs. Undertaker and Eddie vs. Rey (in a ladder match) prompted a lot of guys to be involved in the competition for MOTN. When you get a four-match MOTN competition, you’re dealing with a good PPV. Eddie vs. Rey was a borderline classic in its own right, with Taker vs. Orton giving us a nice change of pace from their spot heavy WM encounter with a mat-based, technical match.
Undercard match worth viewing: Randy Orton vs. Undertaker (Doc’s Note – As mentioned, I really liked this match. They were given plenty of time to work with and they delivered. I think it’s an underrated match, as you don’t often hear too much about it when talking about the non-main-events in Summerslam history. It’s definitely worth a watch)
Match of the Night
1) Hulk Hogan vs. Shawn Michaels (****)
2) Chris Jericho vs. John Cena (***3/4)
3) Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio (***3/4)
Wrestler of the night: Shawn Michaels – HBK had never been known for his drawing power, even though he main-evented a few Wrestlemanias and was a key part of the Mania XIV success, as the founder of the DX stable. Great performances, he was certainly reputable for, but it was nights like Summerslam ’05 that changed the perception. He ended his career as one of the top ten drawing stars of the last thirty years (and, subsequently, of all-time). Summerslam ’05 was one of the first events to reflect that eventual fact with its numbers.
Who’d have ever thought that NXT would be used as a vehicle to create a new stable of young stars that would rip through the Raw roster like tissue paper, leading to the main-event match at Summerslam a few months later? The NXT grads were dubbed, “The Nexus,” and had a great run of dominance through the summer leading to a 7-on-7 elimination tag match against all of the superstars they’d wronged since showing up randomly and destroying everything on Raw, including the ring and, it seemed initially, Daniel Bryan’s career. It’s hard to believe that the same guy that just defended the World title at Wrestlemania and has been the most entertaining presence on Raw ever since was actually fired two years ago for pretending to choke the ring announcer with his tie during the initial Raw assault by the Nexus. The main target of the group was John Cena, but they held nothing back against anyone, former NXT mentors included. The likes of Bret Hart, Vince McMahon, Chris Jericho, Edge, and others were victims of savage Nexus beatings, so there was no shortage of Raw roster members anxious to join forces with Cena for a squad known as “Team WWE” at Summerslam. Jericho, Edge, and Bret Hart joined Cena’s team, along with R-Truth, John Morrison, and…the returning Daniel Bryan, who came back to be the seventh member right before the match.
It was a one match show was Summerslam 2010. If you wanted to see that PPV, it had to have been because of that match. I remember watching the build-up and being very critical of how Team WWE was in and out and back and forth. It worked in the sense that it made it seem like an almost foregone conclusion that Nexus would win at Summerslam, but I would’ve bet my bottom dollar that Nexus would’ve won no matter what kind of story they went with for their opposition. To get those guys over fully, they needed to back up all of their sneak attacks and domination with a victory. I didn’t even order the PPV because I just assumed that’s what would happen (plus, I didn’t think anything else on the second biggest show of the year was worth paying for). To my shock and disgust, Team Cena won. Nexus lost and the potential for their angle was too. Did the New World Order lose when they were taking over WCW? Of course not – if they had then the interest would’ve dissipated quickly like what happened with Nexus. The WWE tried, from there, to keep the angle going and they did a commendable job, but the intrigue left the airwaves when they lost at Summerslam. The result aside, the match was actually very good. It was a 4-star affair and the only reason to bother taking a look at this PPV with historical intentions.
My critique of the event mainly stems from the Nexus loss, as it wasn’t even memorable for being the night that a group of renegades nearly completed their WWE takeover. Instead, it was just another day at the office for Cena. There were other things to gripe about, though. Kane vs. Rey Mysterio had about as much business headlining the second biggest PPV of the year as a Santino match. It was a Smackdown TV main-event masquerading as something that people should pay money to watch and I didn’t buy it. Kane’s heel turn could be seen a mile away and Mysterio as World Champion was a novelty four years past its shelf life. I had wanted Jack Swagger to keep entertainingly rolling along as champ for a while longer. The WWE Championship match between Randy Orton and Sheamus did nothing for me either, though their feud did pick up after Summerslam came and went. I enjoyed their match like I would a Raw main-event, as the build-up was lukewarm and it came across like something announced the week before. I view Summerslam as an event where rivalries should reach a boiling point; not just prompt a few bubbles at the base of the pot.
Undercard match worth viewing: Dolph Ziggler vs. Kofi Kingston (Doc’s Note – These guys won mainly just by default since there were only three options and the other two weren’t worth viewing at all and could be skipped even when watching the PPV on DVD. Just get out the remote and prepare to click “next chapter” a lot)
Match of the Night
1) Nexus vs. Team WWE (****)
2) Sheamus vs. Randy Orton (***)
3) Rey Mysterio vs. Kane (**1/2)
Wrestler of the Night: Daniel Bryan – Even though he wasn’t announced for the card, it would have been a PPV devoid of any real talking points if he hadn’t shown up and surprised everyone. Cena’s team winning was damaging to the guys that should have been the easy choice for “Wrestlers” of the PPV.
Before Summerslam became the “Biggest party of the summer,” it was just a means of furthering the WWE’s financial dominance in the wrestling industry. Part of the reason that the Monday Night War in the mid-90s was such a big deal is that the WWE had gone virtually unopposed while rising to the heights of mainstream consciousness in the eighties. The WWE had a rival back then in the NWA/WCW, but you’d be hard pressed to consider them competition. Summerslam ’88 was the new August event to give the WWE one PPV per quarter. Go back and look at the buyrate data and be astounded at the total supremacy of the WWE over NWA in the business sense.
The event was built on the Mega Powers (Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan) battling with the Mega Bucks (Ted Dibiase and Andre the Giant). It helped the transition between the main rivalries in the WWE being Dibiase vs. Savage and Andre vs. Hogan to the Macho Man and Hulkster competing against each other with the WWE Championship on the line. So, in essence, Summerslam was merely a way to set-up Hogan vs. Savage rather than a big event that the WWE planned their summer schedule around. Nevertheless, it was memorable for a few reasons. For starters, the main-event tag team match was essentially the end of Andre’s run at the top. His body started breaking down on him more rapidly in 1988 and they phased him out from there. It was also a big match for Savage’s manager, Miss Elizabeth. She was one of the original valets to gain huge popularity and became a sex symbol with her bikini bottom revelation at Summerslam. Jesse Ventura was the guest referee and he, along with most red blooded American males, was quite distracted by the sight. She originally had one of her classic full-length dresses on, but the gorgeous beauty made her presence felt by taking off the bottom layer.
Perhaps the most iconic moment from the first Summerslam was when the Honky Tonk Man had his record Intercontinental Championship reign ended. He was originally supposed to face Brutus Beefcake and his reign scheduled to be extended, but Brutus is a douche – I mean, plans changed – and a mystery opponent was set to take his place. Honky was supremely confident coming off a lengthy feud in which he regularly found a way to defeat Macho Man to retain his title. He came out to the ring full of hubris, not knowing what was about to hit him. Cue the Ultimate Warrior. The tasseled wrecking machine hit the ring with blinding speed and made quick work of Honky in record time. 30-seconds after the match began, Honky’s 64 week reign as IC Champion was over. The Warrior springboarded into wrestling’s elite, going on to achieve great success.
Tag teams were on display that night in Madison Square Garden and provided some of the few in-ring highlights. Demolition, in the midst of their own record setting championship reign, took on the Hart Foundation in the lesser of their two Summerslam matches. The best match of the night saw the British Bulldogs draw due to time limit expiration with the Fabulous Rougeaus. It seems that most of the tag teams of that era have good things to say about the Rougeaus, despite them flying under the radar in WWE lore.
Between consecutive Wrestlemania main-events being brought together as the headlining match and MSG hosting the event, Summerslam ’88 has a bit of an original Mania feel to it. It’s not something that you can pop into the DVD player (or VCR) and enjoy without having the right mindset going in, but if you want to immerse yourself in classic childhood memories, then it'll do just fine.
Undercard match worth viewing: Jake Roberts vs. Hercules (Doc’s Note – I am a huge fan of the Snake and I think that Hercules is underrated. It’s definitely not the greatest mid-card match, but it provides satisfactory viewing outside of what’s described above)
Match of the Night
1) Fabulous Rougeaus vs. British Bulldogs (**3/4)
2) Mega Powers vs. Mega Bucks (**)
3) Hart Foundation vs. Demolition (**)
Wrestler of the night: Ultimate Warrior – While Hogan and Savage won in the main-event and Miss Elizabeth’s rear end got a lot of publicity, it was Warrior who had the night’s most memorable moment. Every year, Warrior destroying Honky is replayed on the Summerslam Recall (when they do that).
The last Summerslam not held in Los Angeles dates back to 2008, when Summerslam was hosted by the home of the Indiana Pacers. I was in my final year of school back then and had suggested to a few friends that we actually attend this PPV, but with finals the next day, it did not work out. I’m sad that it didn’t, as this was one of the most memorable Summerslams of all-time. Starting out with a surprisingly lengthy mid-card match between budding main-eventer, Jeff Hardy, and MVP, the event established a tone early on that meant that everyone on the card would have to be at the tops of their games. Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho then found a new way to try and steal the show in an excellent in-ring segment in which HBK attempted to retire due to a storyline eye injury inflicted by Jericho, only for Y2J to sucker punch HBK’s wife by mistake and set their feud ablaze like never before. CM Punk made his first major PPV title defense later on, defeating JBL in a solid match that set a new pace for Match of the Night honors. Triple H was tasked with carrying the Great Khali in a WWE Championship match and did surprisingly well in doing so – a 2-star Khali match is a 4-star performance from whomever coaxed it out of him.
So, Summerslam ’08 had a memorable undercard, but its double main-event was what puts it in place near the top of the 25 year historical rankings. First up was Batista vs. John Cena in an epic first encounter between the WWE’s top two stars of the era. I remember when they both ended up on the same show back in the summer of 2005, shortly after each had won their first respective World titles. I was thinking it’d be great to see a title unification match similar to what we saw in 2011, but Batista got drafted to Smackdown. The groundwork was already laid at the ’05 Rumble that saw the two hit the ground at the same time and the match restarted before Batista eventually won the Battle Royal and defeated Trips in Mania 21’s main-event. By the time 2008 rolled around, many seeds were planted for a memorable match that shockingly took place at anywhere other than Wrestlemania. Cena, by that point, had firmly taken over as the company’s top dog, though Batista was not all that far behind in the pecking order – a very strong beta to Cena’s alpha position. While not as good as their Wrestlemania XXVI match, Cena-Batista 1 was quite entertaining. It would have been difficult to mess up the first battle between guys like them at a time like that. In one memorable spot, Batista caught Cena in mid-air during a flying Billy Gunn-style leg drop and countered into a vicious powerbomb that may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak, inside Cena’s cervical spine – surgery was required right after. Batista won the match…
Going on last at Summerslam ’08 was the Hell in a Cell payoff match to the Edge vs. Undertaker rivalry that main-evented Wrestlemania that year and headlined three other PPVs, as well. I’d like to go on record as calling their series of matches the most underrated championship feud of all-time. So many great matches in such a short span, including the supremely undervalued TLC match from two months prior to Summerslam. Taker was Edge’s greatest opponent and Edge, quietly, one of Taker’s. Their Hell in a Cell match was an all-time classic that redefined what to expect from the modern version of the gimmick. Long gone are the days where a guy like Mick Foley is jumping off the Cell, which is of course considerably taller than it used to be. Yet, with Edge spearing Taker through one of the Cell walls, we were given the sight of how to still have a violent edition within reason. The creativity, perhaps, should now stem not from what you can do off the top, but in how you can bust through the sides. A second spear involving all three announce tables took the hardcore nature up a notch, as well, so when you add in the tables, ladders, and chairs, the storytelling that pieced together the key moments of their on-again, off-again 18 month saga, and the satisfying babyface victory, you’ve got one of the top 5 matches in Summerslam history.
Undercard match worth viewing: Jeff Hardy vs. MVP (Doc’s Note – It’s not often that an opener on PPV gets 20-minutes to work with and even less often that we see guys that are in the mid-card have a showcase match on the second biggest PPV of the year. Hardy and MVP didn’t blow the roof off the Field House, like I’m sure others might have hoped to do with similar time, but they had a really good match and showed why they each should’ve been featured more often)
Match of the night
1) Undertaker vs. Edge (****1/2)
2) Batista vs. John Cena (***1/2)
T3) CM Punk vs. JBL (***)
T3) Jeff Hardy vs. MVP (***)
Wrestler of the night: Edge - Even in a losing effort, Edge walked away with one of the top 5 performances of his career and a legendary match that helps people like the folks at WWE's dotcom to name the Rated R Superstar as "Mr. Summerslam." I thought Edge's series with the Deadman was the finest of his career, offering three bonafide MOTY candidates in just a five month period.
#1 is the best PPV of all-time, in my opinion, in terms of the overall in-ring product offered on that given night.
2002 brought a major change to the WWE. With two weekly multi-hour television programs and two and a half companies worth of talent, the WWE made a bold move in splitting up the rosters with one traveling group plying their trade on Monday Night Raw and the other doing their thing on Thursday night Smackdown! The novel idea was criticized by some, but I think a lot of people understood the potential that was there. It was expected to create new stars a little easier since there wouldn't be as much of a log jam at the top. There were several possible benefits, but in the beginning the WWE shuffled things around a lot to try and figure out what was going to work best. Just a few months after the initial draft to help set-up the split, storyline wise, there was an open trading season where a lot of moving and shaking took place. Meanwhile, certain older stars were beginning to wind down their careers to make room for some newer talent. Scott Hall and Mr. Perfect were fired, Kevin Nash suffered a severe injury, and Stone Cold Steve Austin "took his ball and went home." This was all taking place in the midst of a name change. After decades of being known as the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), the company was forced to change its name to World Wrestling Entertainment. Thus, one could argue that during the middle of what was essentially the merging of three companies into one (WWE, WCW, and ECW), they were also going through the emotions of a quite understandable loss of brand identity. So, it was fair to say that the summer of 2002 was tumultuous for the world's number one sports entertainment entity. August 25th of that year provided just what the doctor ordered to help build some much needed positive momentum...
Summerslam, on paper, had the makings of a great card; some might've called it Wrestlemania-worthy. There were a lot of younger, newer talents on display in various levels of matches and perhaps no one that night made a bigger impression as to what we could expect from him in the future than the former WCW star making his WWE PPV debut: Rey Mysterio. In what I've called the best 8-minute match of all-time, Mysterio and fellow future Hall of Famer, Kurt Angle, put on a thrilling show. It took less than ten-minutes for the two of them to take the audience on a roller coaster ride of back and forth action featuring crisp sequences with high degrees of difficulty made to look easy. The opening contest is expected to set the tone for the remainder of a PPV, so when you open up your show with a fantastic match of that caliber, it means good things.
A dream match, of sorts, between Chris Jericho and Ric Flair had the unfortunate task of following the opener. While it did not match its predecessor, it was certainly no stinker. Edge and Eddie Guerrero followed nicely with a 3-star match that showed flashes of why they'd go on to have one of Smackdown's all-time greatest TV matches just a few weeks later. This would be a great time to mention the Nassau Coliseum crowd that electrified with constant enthusiasm for every match, including the tag title match that pitted the red hot Un-American stable against the unlikely duo of Goldust and Booker T. I firmly believe that it was this Summerslam crowd that planted the seeds for Booker getting a World title shot several months later at Wrestlemania. He was popular going into the match, but this crowd made him out to be a mega-star.
Great PPVs always seem to have a match that gets lost in the shuffle amongst other matches that help make the event worthy of praise. On an episode of Monday Night Raw in the month prior to this show, Benoit won the Intercontinental title from Rob Van Dam (I was in attendance). Benoit and RVD had their return match at Summerslam and, in a 16-minute match that no one ever talks about, really put on a helluva performance. Benoit was the perfect guy to face RVD, as he was able to lend purpose and logic to the high flyer's many signature spots. It was a highly entertaining little dance and it was the type of bout that continued the momentum that so many of the matches before it had previously built. If there was one match on the card that figured to potentially thwart that momentum, it was the match between the Un-American Test and the American Badass, the Undertaker. Taker had an off and on year to that point, where he had as many dud performances as he'd had strong ones. Yet, he got back on track and had a nice match with Test that, again, the crowd at Nassau Coliseum elevated.
And then there were the main-events…
There are a handful of occasions in wrestling where you've gone into a match with uncertain expectations only to see magic happen right before your eyes. It's a rarity that it happens twice in back to back matches, but that's exactly what happened at Summerslam 2002. Shawn Michaels is my all-time favorite performer, but to expect his return match against Triple H to be great was a little ambitious, to say the least. I was just hoping he would make it out of the match without re-injuring or embarrassing himself. Four years is a long layoff. Triple H, much like the Taker, had somewhat of an up and down year in 2002 to that point, as well. There were questions of whether or not he was up to the task of getting HBK through this match (and if he even needed to). And then the match started...and 27 brilliant minutes later, I walked away feeling like I'd just seen one of the all-time classic matches in history; one that I'd absolutely never forget. What a perfect story they told. Agony, triumph, evil, heartache, passion, and compassion all wrapped up into one masterful performance for the ages. How that match could've been any better, I'm not sure I can pinpoint.
How do you go on after THAT? Such was the task given to The Rock and Brock Lesnar. Battling in the final match contested for the Undisputed Championship, the relative rookie with all the untapped potential in the world (Lesnar) had to go out and try to follow arguably the greatest match in Summerslam history. The Rock was known for being able to elevate his game, but Lesnar was an unknown. At least in the previous match, uncertain expectations could be put into perspective by a knowledge that HBK had once been able to go at the highest level. But what of Lesnar, the Next Big Thing? And then the match started...and 16 excellent minutes later, another highly entertaining story had been told. While not at the level of the Non-Sanctioned Street Fight, The Rock and Brock Lesnar's match far exceeded expectations and delivered a relative classic match of their own.
Undercard match worth viewing: Rey Mysterio vs. Kurt Angle (Doc’s Note – You’ve got several to choose from, but this was the best. Angle vs. Mysterio is just an awesome spectacle. Angle was at his best in 2002 and pretty much any of his matches from that year are worth viewing, but his work with Rey was just tremendous)
Match of the Night
1) HBK vs. Triple H (*****)
2) The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar (****1/4)
3) Rey Mysterio vs. Kurt Angle (***1/2)
Wrestler of the night: Brock Lesnar – Hard to go with anyone else, even if HBK stole the show. Brock became the youngest World Champion in history, at the time, and is still the youngest WWE Champion of all. Not only did he win the title just four months after his debut, but he did it in glorious fashion, showing himself to be the big game performer that we all love to see.